1994 was the debut of our very first ranking of North American thermoformers. Then-reporter Don Loepp was the researcher behind this project. He introduced our readers to 134 thermoforming companies. Mobil Chemical Co. was No. 1 on the list.
Fast forward to today, and our 2019 ranking included 225 firms. The No. 1 company in the ranking has changed only twice in 25 years, but both times it was primarily the result of a change in ownership: Tenneco's Packaging Corp. of America unit bought Mobil's plastics division for $1.27 billion in 1995, and then Tenneco spun off the packaging unit in 1999 to create Pactiv Corp., now Pactiv LLC.
Three No. 1 companies, but all can trace their ancestry to Mobil Chemical.
On this page we are sharing some interesting data points related to thermoforming.
Tracking the total ranked sales across all 25 years and comparing it to the average sales per company is a way to even out the billion-dollar gap between the largest and smallest molders.
The 355 percent growth for our average ranked company is impressive, but how does that compare to feedstock costs? After all, plastic sheet and energy are major expenses for thermoforming companies.
Well, to put it into perspective, crude oil was at $14.28 per barrel in 1994 and natural gas was $1.88 per million metric British thermal unit. Today, those gains drop in at a staggering 444 percent and 68 percent respectively.
Plastics News' pricing history for the most popular resins used in thermoforming didn't begin until 1997. For ABS, polystyrene and high density polyethylene, using 1997 figures, we see increases of 70, 60 and 100 percent, respectively.
Finally, some thermoforming trivia: The Society of Plastics Engineers has given its Thermoformer of Year award since 1982. With 38 winners in total, 25 of them were employed by thermoformers at the time they won the award. The rest worked as consultants, were retired or worked for machinery or material suppliers.